A conspiracy thriller starring Fringe’s Anna Torv? Um, yes please. The Australian Netflix original series Secret City (2016) dropped its first season recently in the U.S., and I gobbled it right up. Set in Canberra, it stars Torv as Harriet Dunkley, a gutsy political journalist with a knack for getting under the skin of powerful government officials. Her investigation of a murdered activist quickly escalates when it becomes clear officials in the Australian government are working to cover it up. Harriet’s pursuit of the story leads her to recruit her ex Kim (Damon Herriman), an analyst for the Australian Signals Directorate. Kim’s reluctant aid helps unravel a devious political conspiracy, which could have far-reaching consequences both for Australia’s defense policy and its relationship with China and the United States.
Secret City starts modestly, and took a while to warm up. While attractively shot and professionally produced, it lacks personality in the early-going, unfolding in a flat, expected way. Torv is great, but she’s the only character who really makes a strong impression. Fortunately, as the specifics of the plot start to fill in, the show becomes more interesting—an Australian House of Cards, with Dunkley a voice of conscience amidst the complex agendas of various shady government power-brokers. The support improves as the plot does, with Daniel Wyllie, Alex Dimitriades, and Jacki Weaver standing out. By the end of the short run, which resolves in a nicely understated way, I was hoping for more in this world—which fortunately is on the way. Definitely worth the time investment for fans of the genre, especially if you’re fond of Torv.